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Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

Trudeau maintains all approved vaccines safe for Canadians

Tuesday, May 04, 2021 @ 4:29 PM | By Terry Davidson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintains the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada are safe, and that Canadians should take the first vaccine offered to them — even though the country’s immunization experts still prefer those not linked to rare cases of blood clotting.

During a May 4 press conference, Trudeau was asked about a recent update by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), in which it advised on who should receive Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Janssen vaccine and touched on instances of blood clotting linked to it outside Canada.

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

NACI officials also reiterated their preference of mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna over Janssen and AstraZeneca — the latter of which has also been linked to clotting.

In light of this, Trudeau was asked about his long-standing mantra that Canadians take the first vaccine they are offered.

“Every single vaccine administered in Canada has been judged by Health Canada as being safe and effective,” he said. “The impacts from catching COVID-19 are far greater — and far deadlier, we’ve seen across the country — than potential side effects, which, although serious, are rare. … The reality is, the way we get through this pandemic is to get vaccinated with whatever vaccine is offered to us, as quickly as possible.”

The day before, NACI gave its recommendations for the Janssen vaccine, which Health Canada currently has on hold due to quality control concerns at a manufacturing facility in the U.S.   

“At this time and based on current evidence, NACI recommends the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individuals 30 years of age and older without contraindications, if the individual does not wish to wait for an mRNA vaccine and if the benefits outweigh the risk for the individual,” it stated.

That same day, NACI vice-chair Shelley Deeks talked of the organization’s preference to mRNA vaccines.  

“What we’ve said all along is that the mRNA vaccines are the preferred vaccine, yet given the epidemiology, the viral vector vaccines are very effective vaccines, but there is a safety signal, a safety risk … and the issue with the safety signal is although it is very rare, it is very serious, and so individuals need to have an informed choice to be vaccinated with the first vaccine that is available or to wait for an mRNA vaccine. They need to be aware that those are the options available to them,” said Deeks.

Health Canada approved the Janssen vaccine in March but on April 18 provided an update based on blood clotting having occurred in at least 17 Americans amongst the roughly eight million who received that shot.

During Trudeau’s press conference, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, was asked about possible confusion on the part of Canadians due to on one hand being told to take the first vaccine offered to them, while, on the other, being advised to weigh the risks and possibly wait for a vaccine preferred by NACI.

Tam said the public will be kept in the loop by local health officials when it comes to the risk-benefit assessments done for the vaccines.

“So that when they are rolling out their program to individual communities, for example, they’ve already taken into account the fact that there may be a lot of COVID-19 activity going on. ... They’ve, of course, looked at the data as it pertains to any … rare serious adverse events. They would have also taken into account their specific circumstances in terms of their access that they’re providing to the different populations. So, that by the time it gets to individuals, and that you’re offered the vaccine, I think you’ve already been reassured that the local jurisdictions have done all of that work.”

Tam said Canadians “should be confident … they are being provided with vaccines knowing that all of that data and analysis and thoughtful thinking and the balancing of benefit and risk has been part of the consideration as vaccines are offered to them.”    

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